Monday, December 18, 2006

Seven Deadly Sins Part III: Greed & Sloth

The series continues...

Greed is, like Lust and Gluttony, a sin of excess. However, Greed particularly applies to the acquisition of wealth. Thomas Aquinas wrote that Greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things." In Dane's Purgatory, the penitent were forced to kneel on hard stone and recite the examples of avarice and its opposing virtue. Avarice is a blanket term that can describe many other forms of sinful behavior. These include disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain, as when someone lets themselves be bribed. Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by violence, trickery, skulldugery or manipulation of authority are all actions that are inspired by greed. Such misdeeds include Simony, where the sinner feels the urge to make money by selling things within the confines of the church.
I wouldn't be in Las Vegas if I didn't want to win money.

I didn't go to Las Vegas to act like an angel and a good Catholic. I went to gamble and raise hell. And as the pussification of America is slowly happening before our eyes, Las Vegas one of the few places on the planet you can still go and get yer rocks knocked without the self-righteous nitwits raining down sanctimonious barbs at you, while you let loose on a gold old fashioned bender.

The millions of visitors who fly into Vegas every year from around the globe to unleash their inner deviant moments after touchdown at McCarran Airport. And part of that degenerate behavior is a psychological urge to win money. Lots of it. And the sinister fuckers in Vegas even plotted to have slot machines in the airport. And why? To get every last cent out of you before you leave town because anyone who's stuck will tell you they're itching to get unstuck and will gamble on almost anything. Hence the rows of slots at the airport.

Money is the root of all evil and I-15 to Las Vegas is also known as Greed Freeway. No one drives to Las Vegas with thoughts of leaving Sin City a loser. Everyone thinks about the cash they are going to win. About walking to the cage with a security escort and racks and racks of chips. About walking around with enough money in your pocket to buy a brand new car. About raking in that monster pot in a juicy NL cash game...

Nobody thinks about losing. Even when we're losing, we're thinking about winning. They got you by the balls in Las Vegas. You're either pressing a win or chasing a loss. Regardless, you're gambling and playing with house money or digging deep into your pockets and sheepishly pulling out rent money to get unstuck. You can't help yourself. Greed is too strong to overcome for weak minded individuals.

"I'll bank," Maigrey announced to the dealer.

"This game is called 'Take Maigrey's Money'," I joked to the rest of the players at the Pai Gow table as I counted out my remaining chips.

Normally I don't like taking friends money. I shouldn't say that I don't like it. Money is money. But I feel a tinge of remorse when I know I won a big pot off a friend. And in that instance, I was chasing a loss at the Pai Gow tables. I had to get unstuck and it didn't matter to me that I'd be winning Maigrey's money or the IP's money. The greed clouded my judgment. I should have walked away and came back after I calmed myself down. I didn't and the slide continued.

Greed is a powerful entity capable of taking over all of your decision making processes along with denying yourself sleep, food, and relaxation. I was not content with the status quo. Being in Vegas with friends and having a good time gambling was not sufficient for me. I needed more. I needed a win. A nice score. A big hand. Something positive. Anything. Desperation set in and the only moments I felt any stimulation was when I won something. And the more infrequent that happened, the more numb I became to the rest of reality.

I was losing. I was conscious of losing. And I didn't care.

I became an accomplice in my own downfall as I spiraled into the darkside of Las Vegas where hopes and dreams cease to exist and your soul is quickly nibbled on by the voracious gambling demons who love to feast on fresh meat.

"A push is a win!" Maigrey yelled to the table.

They were all happy to push in Pai Gow. Not me. I needed to get unstuck. To me, a push was a loss. I didn't get off on a push. Like Lou Reed desiring that spike in his veins, I needed the rush and excitement of a win to get me out of that mud pit infested with the rest of Las Vegas losers. Like a pestilence on this land, the Losers were easy to spot. Their soulless bodies wandered through the casinos, with their negative auras howling at you as they trudged past you at 3am with the 100-yard gambler's stare and look right through you with their mind focused on one thing... getting enough money to help get them unstuck.

The Las Vegas valley is inhabited by over a hundred thousand of those zombies. Some of them are jacked up on crank just to help get them through the 72 hour gambling binges, when people's paychecks and dreams evaporate under the scorching Nevada sun. The rest of them are awake on the Loser's Adrenaline. Or what casino suits describe as "degenerate behavior that pays our salaries."

Winning at poker is easy for me. But it takes a lot longer. Blackjack is instant. As is craps. Sports betting is a two or three hour sustained high and if the game is close and you come out a winner, the high is better than cocaine and heroin combined.

That's why overtime games cause more heart attacks in gamblers than any other illness. Nothing is worse than having your team cough up a double digit lead in the four quarter while some flunky journeyman who couldn't even put on jockstrap correctly three weeks earlier is all of a sudden playing out of his tits like an all star and destroying your hopes at getting unstuck. In three weeks, his pro career is over and he'll be back to bagging groceries at the Safeway in Renton, but the damage has been done. He came off the bench and dropped 20 points in the 4th quarter as I lost yet another game at the buzzer as the worst case scenario quickly became my reality.

There are at least a dozen or so names on my Sportsbook shitlist. Those are guys that if I ever meet in real life, I'm gonna kick them swift in the junk.

Whack! "That's for missing the back end of a one-and-one and not covering against Old Dominion in the 2005 NCAA tournament, fucktard!"

Crunch! "That's for missing that field goal against the Vikings in the playoffs and costing me $500, you fucking burro!'

Stomp! "You assclown! Why did you throw that interception in the endzone of the Sugar Bowl when you could have thrown it away?"

I should know better than to bet large sums of money on horses (animals injected with speed) and pro athletes (humans imjected with animal growth hormones), when I know myself at the poker table is the best bet in town. Yet, I do it anyway and bet on -EV games. Because I'm an action junkie. And I'm greedy.

Live poker is so fucking slow sometimes and I usually get stuck next to a drunk idiot with bad breath who won't stop fucking bragging about how great of a poker player he is, or I'm stuck next to the most dreary person on the planet who incessantly prattles on about bad beat after bad beat so much so that I want to slit my wrists right at the table in a public display of total agony.

If I could two-table live poker, I'd have more fun running back and forth between tables, elbowing waitresses and banging into other degenerate junkies who are also two-tabling it in the same poker room. But with my luck, I'd get stuck to the smelly guy at both tables or the potential serial killer in Seat 3 who keeps wiping his snot on his chips.

I wish I could find a way to stop and stand up to Greed. I get plenty of opportunities to walk away, but like my prayers to God to help get me unstuck... they go ignored.

* * * * *

More than other sins, the definition of Sloth has changed considerably since its original inclusion in the list. It has been characterized as what modern thinkers would describe as apathy, depression, and joylessness - the latter being considered a refusal to enjoy the goodness of God and the world he created. Originally, its place was fulfilled by two others, Acedia and Sadness. The former described a spiritual apathy that affected the faithful by discouraging them from their religious work. Sadness (tristitia in Latin) described a feeling of dissatisfaction or discontent, which caused unhappiness with their current situation. When Aquinas selected Acedia for his list, he described it as an "uneasiness of the mind," being a progenitor for lesser sins such as restlessness and instability. Dante built on this definition, describing Sloth as being the "failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind and all one's soul." He also describes it as the middle sin, and as such is the only sin characterized by an absence or insufficiency of love. Modern interpretations differ from either of these, and portray Sloth as being simply a sin of laziness, of an unwillingness to act, and of an unwillingness to care. For this reason Sloth is now often seen as being considerably less serious than the other sins.
My inherent laziness creates more problems than anything else. My laziness occurs the most when it comes with dealing with the other six sins. Every sin that I commit is coupled with laziness and sloth, which means I'm constantly committing double sins. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd get off my ass and do something about my greedy and lustful nature. But I have too much fun appealing to my inner Hedonist. Like a corrupt beat cop on the take, I look the other way.

Sloth is a terrible disease. The casinos profit on your laziness and want you to stay on their property so much so that they'll give you free stuff and cheap food on site so you don't wander off into another casino and donk off your bonus check at their table games.

Because you were too lazy to walk across the street and play at a different casino, your sloth has made Steve Wynn a wealthy man, so much so that he didn't even sneeze at dropping $700 million to build a new casino in Macau. That seems like a fair trade... you get a cheap buffet and free towels and Steve Wynn gets another brand new casino.

Of course, the worst trait of sloth is the unwillingness to change my behavior when I'm in Las Vegas. It's easier to surrender to the flow than to fight the tough fight and stand up to the other psychological liabilities that I tend to experience during stints in Las Vegas. My lazy nature to address my problems paralyzes my ability to rationally think. That's why I stay unstuck.

The worst episode of sloth that I've ever heard in Las Vegas had to be the story that Grubby told me where he sat down at a slot machine and discovered that the seat was drenched in urine. The previous occupant was so lazy and glued to the slot machine that they'd rather suffer from utter public humiliation and piss their pants than rather stand up and take a bathroom break.

That's an ugly and smelly secret that the Vegas casinos don't want you to know... that at any given time, hundreds of seats at various slot machines in Las Vegas are covered in urine by addicted gamblers who ignored their bladders and pissed in their pants in order to keep on gambling. Urine junkies. And if you know people are urinating on themselves, a few unlucky fuckers are shitting their pants while waiting for a Mr. Cashman bonus round.

At the same time, those stories are hysterical and sad. But that's the harsh reality that you don't get to see under the bright lights of the Strip, where dozens of shameless addicted gamblers are currently sitting in warm pools of their own urine.

... to be continued.

* * * * *

Read the other installments...
Seven Deadly Sins Part I: Lust and Gluttony
Seven Deadly Sins Part II: Wrath

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